Makes three fougasses
For the ferment
100g rye flour
10g fresh yeast
400g beer, such as a good ale
For the flavourings
2 heads of garlic
100g Gruyère cheese, grated, plus a little extra to sprinkle on the dough (optional)
For the dough
300g cool water
900g strong bread flour
20g sea salt
10g fresh yeast
Semolina flour, for dusting the peel
Start by making the ferment. Put the rye flour in a mixing bowl, break up the yeast and lightly rub it into the flour using the flats of your hands.
Mix in the beer then cover the bowl with a clean baking cloth or a large freezer bag. Leave to rest for two hours.
Meanwhile, start on the flavourings. Separate each head of garlic into cloves, leaving the skin on. Put into a pan and add enough olive oil to cover the garlic then heat gently until just the odd bubble breaks the surface. Cook over a very low heat for about 10-15 minutes until soft and darkened, by which time they will have become very sweet. Leave to cool down a little in the pan and then lift out the cloves and squeeze the soft flesh from the skin of each clove into a small bowl, discarding the skin. Set aside.
Heat a little vegetable oil in a separate pan and fry the lardons until light golden on all sides. Drain on kitchen paper and set aside.
To make the dough, transfer the ferment to a food mixer, add the water and then the strong bread flour and salt. Roughly break the yeast on top on the opposite side of the bowl to the salt, and mix for four minutes on a low speed, then turn up to medium for 10-12 minutes until the dough comes away cleanly from the bowl.
Turn out the dough using a scraper onto a lightly floured work surface and also lightly flour a clean bowl.
Turn the dough over so that it is now bottom-side up. Form the dough into a ball. Gather each ‘corner’ of the dough and fold into the centre, pressing down lightly with your thumb. Use your other hand to rotate the dough anti-clockwise before folding the next ‘corner’. Repeat the folding and rotating sequence a further six times to strengthen the dough.
Finally, turn the dough over so your top is back on top, and smooth and shape it into a round. Use your scraper to help you lift the dough into your floured bowl.
Cover with a baking cloth or a large freezer bag and leave the dough to rest for 45 minutes until just under double in size. Preheat the oven to 250°C and put in a baking stone or upturned baking tray to heat up. Fill a clean spray bottle with water.
Lightly flour your work surface and turn out the dough so that the top is now underneath.
Lightly flour the surface of the dough and, with your fingertips, gently prod it into a rough rectangle slightly smaller than an A3 sheet of paper. Turn the dough so the long edge is facing you and pile the lardons, garlic and Gruyère (if using) over the surface.
Fold one of the long sides into the centre, over the filling, and then fold the other side over the top to create a parcel. Using the flat edge of your scraper, cut the dough into three equal pieces.
Now use the flat edge of a scraper to make a series of cuts, slightly on the diagonal, all the way through – either in a single row or a double row – but make sure your cuts don’t go right to the edges.
Open out the cuts a little with your fingers – if you made a single row of cuts, the strips will resemble a ladder. Scatter the surface of each fougasse with extra grated cheese, if you like.
Transfer the fougasses, one at a time, onto a lightly floured baking peel or tray and then slide them quickly onto the hot baking stone or tray in the preheated oven.
Just before you close the door, mist the inside of the oven using the water spray. Bake for 15 minutes until dark golden. Allow to cool a little before eating.
• Taken from Crumb By Richard Bertinet (Kyle Books, £25). Read the review here.